Just in for Valentine’s Day -- a love letter from God to you. Read what God has to say. It’s all right in the scriptures! My Child In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28 I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1 I know when you
March 29, 2020 Week 5 LENT: Risking the Loss of Friends
This past week has been a difficult one as we have learned about the spread of Covid - 19 around the world and the deaths that have resulted. I learned that a friend has been exposed and is now in isolation from family. Have you received that kind of news too?
Our journey through Lent brings us to a heartbreaking story of saying goodbye to friends. This week takes us to that last night that Jesus spent with his disciples. It was the Passover feast, a time of celebrating deliverance and freedom from slavery in Egypt. But as the evening unfolded, there was much more going on.
Jesus’ words at the Last Supper were shocking to those gathered in that upper room. His words can seem familiar, even comforting to us when we hear them as we share communion. But at the moment of their utterance that night in the upper room, they were anything but “usual.” This week we enter the scene of that last supper just long enough to get a grasp of the shock that would have rippled through Jesus’ friends. A “Lord” washing feet like a servant? Unbelievable!?! But Jesus knew his time was up. And it was time for the disciples to get the message, even if it came in a shocking way: love one another as I have loved you— by serving, forgiving, freeing, communing—becoming one with—God.
As we enter the picture, we find Jesus and his followers gathering for a meal. Listen to one witness tell the story:
“My master’s banquet hall upstairs was booked for this night, and the time had arrived for this evening’s group to come for the banquet. All was prepared according to their wishes, and I was ready with the water and basin as I always am. Years ago, my parents had given me to the owner as collateral for the debt they owed him. But things did not go well for them, and the debt had never been paid. And so, I work to pay it off. Roman law says that someday I could be a freed person, but I will never again have the full rights in society like those who have never been slaves. It is a mark for life. I keep my head down and do what the master asks because legally he has the right to punish, abuse, and humiliate me. I’ve witnessed it happen to others. Right now, I have no rights.
So, there I was, with the bowl, just waiting for the go-ahead to start. It would be the honored guest first, of course, and I knew which one that was by where he was seated. This was all protocol; everyone has a place according to status. When he showed up, I recognized him and remembered the stories I had been hearing about this teacher. He was saying things that were really upsetting those invested in this system of status… saying things like “the last shall be first.” My friend who serves in the kitchen had to tell me to stop staring. I just couldn’t imagine a world like he described.
And then he came right up to me and took the basin of water from my hands. He took my servant’s towel and wrapped it around his own waist and knelt, telling Peter to come sit down. This was going to be no ordinary night. And I realized my life, my view of myself and my station in life, was never going to be the same.”
Washing others’ feet may seem shocking to us, but more out of a disdain for feet rather than the real reason it was shocking to those first disciples.
Jesus’ stature as the Master Teacher and honored guest made him first in line to be served--certainly not to be the servant. Later that night, after they had left the upper room Jesus said to them: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13: 34
As we live these days of sheltering in place, I would like each of you to think about this: In what way you can show love for Jesus? How can we show love for others from where we are sheltered.
A Prayer for Such a Time as This: Sometimes we just aren’t paying attention. We can keep our heads in the sand when we really need to attend to difficult situations, or the needs of your people. Forgive us, O God. Guard us from distancing ourselves and help us to care for what’s right in front of us. You entered our story through Jesus, now help us to enter fully into the story of your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Know this: Our lives contain continual opportunities to be in humble service to friends and strangers. You are forgiven and freed, encouraged and loved by a God who wants you to live fully.
Hear these words of benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.